(3.5) I re-watched Burton's Batman the other day and found it disappointing but watching this for the first time (24 years late) I was pretty impressed. It feels like Burton got to make a film more in his own style, darker and weirder than the first Batman, and DeVito and particularly Pfeiffer are great.
Although lacking the raw, visceral power of the original, BATMAN RETURNS improves upon its predecessor's clunkier parts (dialog, plot, tone). Given free rein by the studio, Tim Burton pile-drives his artistic credo ('it's okay to be a freak') while leaning on the stunning production and costume design. Then there is Keaton's Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman. Their sadomasochism as unflinching modern romance.
Especially when compared to DC's The Dark Knight, let alone Marvel, this Burton film feels so much more natural in its comic book-affiliation. Batman Returns is more genuine in the balance of its outrageous action and genuine character drama, while its underlying meaning is actually traditionally extracted subtlety than announced for dummies. Also, all the sexual humor feels so alluringly un-PC, and is even daring.